Investment in people yields positive returns

by Isabella Lee

Patrick Lam, general manager of human resources
Hongkong International Terminals
Photo: Nolly Leung

Corporate values instilled through actions rather than words

Behind every well-established business organisation, there is a range of factors working together to achieve success. In particular, clear guiding principles for the workforce form the backbone of a nurturing corporate culture and enhance sustainable development.

Over the past 38 years, Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) has consistently set industry benchmarks for productivity, efficiency and value-added services. As the flagship operation of the Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) Group, HIT has developed into a centre of excellence through pioneering modern management techniques, advanced computer systems and award-winning IT applications.

"Terminal operation plays a unique role in the logistics industry," says Patrick Lam, HIT's general manager of human resources. "The job functions are dynamic, and therefore the key to healthy growth is employing staff with a diverse set of skills and a desire to learn."

HIT employs about 1,600 staff at its terminals in Kwai Tsing and has the flexibility to bring in between 300 and 2,000 additional contracted workers. Managing such a sizeable workforce and instilling HIT's core values at all levels require a comprehensive approach.

Vast endeavour

A few years ago, HIT set up its "corporate culture taskforce", a cross-departmental committee that organises a series of activities and campaigns to promote desirable cultural values and behaviours within the company.

Using the easy-to-remember acronym "FOR" (friendly, open and result-driven), the committee promotes the importance of corporate values to staff using paraphernalia including posters, magnets, notepads, Octopus card-holders, reusable shopping bags and other products.

The committee also encourages HIT staff to take part in FOR logo-design competitions, Octopus card-holder graphic design competitions and other promotional events. Additionally, free FOR products are handed out to employees.

"Through active participation, we hope everyone working for HIT will share the values and, more importantly, carry out the FOR behaviours in the workplace," Mr Lam notes.

He highlights one slogan in the FOR handbook, which says: "We accommodate mistakes and encourage improvement." This means that the company welcomes innovative ideas. "Instead of sticking to old practices, we encourage our people to come up with new ways of doing things. Our message is clear that we accept trial and error as a necessary step towards advancement," he adds.

The effort and resources invested in building the HIT model have yielded positive returns. Customer service levels are constantly improving, and the company continues to add awards to its already diverse collection.

Versatile career

"Teamwork is something we take great pride in," says Mr Lam. "It is the binding force that keeps us at the forefront of the container terminal industry. Training plays a large part in helping HIT become an organisation that values its employees, enabling them to be the best they can." The aim is for employees at all levels to be equipped with the necessary know-how through suitable programmes.

To foster a bigger pool of talent, HIT is involved in prevocational education. One such endeavour is a Work Integrated Education programme, offered in conjunction with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Participants work at HIT for up to 200 hours, performing several different job functions. In exchange, they earn three credits towards their logistics studies.

HIT also cooperates with other academic institutions such as the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and the Institute of Vocational Education to provide internships for future professionals.

"Capitalising on the strength of our connections with the regional and international sister ports in our group, we also offer tremendous opportunities for staff to learn through job rotation within the port network, including short-term overseas assignments and international secondments," Mr Lam explains. "As a market leader, our strength lies in making cross-function, cross-boundary and cross-business units possible for career development."

Mr Lam is the ideal example. He started his career in the company's human resources department in 1988. Since then, he has worked in ports in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Ningbo, learning about different aspects of the port industry.

"The appearance of containers has not changed drastically, but their content and the technology behind transporting them have evolved greatly through the years," Mr Lam points out.

He adds that multi-talented people who are innovative and energetic, and who are able to respond quickly to situations, will do well in this field. Prospective entrants should prepare themselves by getting the right qualifications and gaining exposure to the industry.

"For better training opportunities and international exposure, choose an organisation at the forefront of the industry," Mr Lam advises.


Taken from Career Times 21 September 2007
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